How do you flesh out flat characters as an author?


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As authors, it is our job to transport the reader to another world. The ability to provide a complete escape from reality is a special one but it takes a lot of practice and a bit of talent to be able to do so. There are a lot of lessons to be learned along the way and when it comes to character, there is no such thing as too much practice. Character is the key area in story writing because that is who your reader has the most contact time with. Your characters tell the story no matter what perspective you narrate from, be it first or third person, your characters are the ones who your reader needs to relate to.

So how do you make characters that are unique individuals and interesting to read about? The reader needs to care about what motivates your heroes otherwise they'll be putting your book down and reaching for the next one on the shelf. Let's look at an example.

Take Molly, I need her to be the protagonist of a novel involving pirates. The concept is she will run away from home and board a ship to get away from her old life.

In order for Molly to be a fully fledge novel ready character, we need to know some more details about her. This is where the character interview comes in handy. There are a number of very good ones available on the internet. It is a good idea to look at several different ones and then come up with your own version to make sure all the questions are relevant. I predominantly write in the fantasy genre so asking what Molly's favourite TV show is would be pointless. Here are some example questions you could use for your character:

1. What was your childhood like?
2. What do you want from life?
3. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be and why?
4. Describe yourself to me.
5. What are your strengths?
6. What are your weaknesses?
7. What is your family life like?
8. What's the biggest mistake you have ever made?
9. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
10. What is in your pocket right now?

These are just a few that can be used to conduct an interview with a potential character. Not all the information that you come up with will be relevant or go into the story however it is handy for you to have as an author. I have a ring binder file on the shelf above my desk with all the details in, that way, if it does arise in the story all I need to do is reach for it.

Let's take another look at Molly and see how she's developed after the interview: Molly is running away from her old life as she is being forced into prostitution by her mother, it is the only way she will be able to earn a living as she never went to school. She wants to see the world so has opted for a life at sea, she hopes this will take her to exotic places. She is head strong and hardworking but she is very na've. She is unsure where her choice will take her but if it gets her away from being a prostitute, she will be happy.

This is just a quick example developed for the sake of this article, I am sure you will spend more time on developing your characters!

I will say this about character development. The most important thing to know about all your characters, not just the protagonists and antagonists, but the support cast and minor characters as well is what motivates them. Why are they doing what they are doing? It varies from wanting to destroy the world because his parents were cruel to him to needing to earn enough money to feed the family. Motivation plays a huge role in character development. It is this motivation that will keep a reader hooked in your novel and reading to the end. Miss this out and your readers will be looking elsewhere to entertain them.

Written by : Debbie Rushby, Hull, UK (BA Hons English 2:1)

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice